Damages outweigh benefits of time changes

Here we are once again at our annual “fall back” from Daylight Saving Time to Eastern Standard Time. Since we are on DST for more months out of the year than we are on regular time, we tend to forget that the setting of the clocks in the winter months is actually the norm.

I suppose one could argue there’s no point to me writing about this now when DST is obviously here to stay. While growing up, I was used to Indiana as one of the last holdouts against DST. Now that pretty much the whole U.S. (except for Hawaii and the parts of Arizona that include the Navajo Nation) is on board, I imagine there’s no going back.

There are all kinds of arguments for it.

Some say it reduces energy consumption, or they cite the increased ability to enjoy outdoor activities after work. Economic motivations state that people are more likely to shop in daylight hours, leading to an increase in retail purchases.

On the downside are more traffic collisions, especially in the first week in the spring when DST is implemented. Many workplaces report an increase in injuries and a decrease in efficiency when the clocks are first changed. Other statistics state heart attacks increase in frequency the first three days after the change in the spring.

All that aside, the thing that really gets me is the fact that somehow everyone has agreed to call something what it’s not — it’s 9 in the morning but we’re just going to call it 10. What?

How about if I tried that with my bank account? I know it looks like my balance is $100 but let’s just say it’s $200. I doubt that’s going to fly.

Sure, I’m being a little absurd here, but that’s because if you really stop to think about it, this whole idea of DST is pretty goofy. I suppose we had to do some of this collective agreeing to get time zones in place to begin with. It became necessary so that we could know what time it is somewhere else for purposes of business or travel.

If you’re on the edge of a time zone, then your true time is going to be a bit off from the clocks anyway — noon on a sundial probably won’t match up with your watch. But isn’t that enough mass compromise about time without adding the complication of DST?

(On the subject of refusing to compromise about time, I have a friend who insists on using 24-hour time in all communications. When he sends out emails for events, he will have a snarky line, like the party starts at 20:00, or 8 p.m. for those who prefer medieval time.)

I’ll admit, I do enjoy the memes that float around Facebook this time of year. A picture of Cher with a reminder to “Turn Back Time.” Or Christopher Guest as Count Rugen from The Princess Bride, stating: “I’ve just sucked one hour of your life away.” I’d really miss those if we went back to real time all year ‘round.

Why do we want to intentionally give ourselves jet lag twice a year? Messing with our circadian rhythms like that cannot be good for us. We or someone we know have all experienced insomnia, brain fog or general crankiness as a result of DST. I just don’t see how a few potential economic benefits outweigh the damage that we do to our bodies.

Think about this — it never gets dark at 6:30 pm. In the last week before the change back to standard time, it is night by 7 p.m. Once we switch, it will be an hour earlier. How can that not be disorienting on a psychological level? What are the real long-term costs to our health?

I think of how confusing it gets when we get a few days of weather that is unseasonable, and I’m from Indiana, where this is common. But this whole light/dark thing should be more consistent, a gradual change with the seasons to give our bodies a chance to adjust to the yearly rhythm of the sun.

Living in this world is stressful enough on us, and I don’t believe we need to give ourselves one more thing to contend with. We already have enough light pollution at night, and this time-changing nonsense further interferes with our sleep patterns. I’d encourage everyone to give this some thought — and sleep on it.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website, www.stephaniehaines.com.